-by Nathaniel FitzGerald
Cursive's Tim Kasher has always had a knack for offering twisted, anguished rock and roll. Throughout their career, he has delved deeply into divorce, corrupt religion, art as masochism, and every neurosis you can think of.
But on Vitriola, he sounds downright demented. He spews his disturbingly reflective lyrics with a venom that's...well...vitriolic. He vacillates between self-hatred and hopelessness at the political state. "Pick up the pieces, give a fuck. The world's a turd to polish up." "I try to find significance in each line that I commit: an exercise in senselessness." "Nobody asked for an encore, but here I am." "I used to fall for anarchy but loved the world too much. I used to fall for rioting 'til the sentry locked us up. Now I fall in line" Kasher has never exactly been one to sing songs of hope (save "Staying Alive" on The Ugly Organ), but this is the most desperate he's ever been.
Musically, the record is just as psychotic. The band pounds through chords with an almost heavy metal fury. The return of a cello to the sonic pallette will undoubtedly draw comparisons to their opus Ugly Organ, and that's completely fair. Vitriola explores the darker moments of that record more at length—specifcally songs like "Driftwood" and "Gentleman Caller." "Oroboros" is far and away the most dissonant and bizarre song they've ever done.
But somehow, despite the harsh sonic pallette, despairing lyrics, and odd chord changes, most of these songs are incredibly catchy. And it's a good thing too, because without any pop hooks, this album would be entirely impenetrable. Instead, it demands—and rewards repeat listens. It might be unfair to their discography to call this the best album since Ugly Organ, but I'm pretty sure it's true. A stunning return-to-form from a band whose legacy didn't need a comeback. But I'm glad for it.